Winter temperatures plummet to near record lows

Doug Balnaves  TBW Newsgroup
CHILLY BUSINESS: Bowen Estate's Doug Bowen braves some of the coldest weather Coonawarra has seen in decades to get pruning under way for 2019.

Doug Balnaves TBW Newsgroup
CHILLY BUSINESS: Bowen Estate’s Doug Bowen braves some of the coldest weather Coonawarra has seen in decades to get pruning under way for 2019.

WINTER well and truly set in last week with communities around the Limestone Coast observing their coldest days in decades.

Coonawarra was hit hard on Saturday with an overnight low of just -3.8C, reportedly the coldest temperature in 37 years.

Covering the region in a blanket of frost, most of the community was rugged up indoors but in the bustling wine region, work still needs to get done.

This time of the year vignerons are busily pruning their vines in preparation for next year’s vintage, meaning early mornings and long days working in the elements.

After 45 years in the industry, Doug Bowen has seen many cold winter mornings out in the vines, but the past week has been extra chilly for his team.

Pruning for around 10 weeks of the year, the team head out into the Bowen Estate 70 acre vineyard to get the job done, braving whatever the weather has on offer.

“It has been pretty cold out here every morning,” Mr Bowen said.

“It is definitely tough getting up when it is not even zero degrees outside but it has to be done.

“It has been that cold we even had some of our vines freeze over due to a tiny hole in the irrigation system.”

Mr Bowen said although the winter weather is tough, he believes consistent frost early in the season is beneficial for the vines.

“We need complete dormancy to be able to prune during winter,” he said.

“So frosts like this basically shut the vines down, meaning we can prune quickly and easily without any complications.

“This also is an indicator for the following year’s vintage.

“A good pruning season brings a flow-on effect which means we should have a cracker vintage 2020.”

With the vines in complete dormancy, Mr Bowen said they will go through their bud break at the same time in addition to flowering, fruiting and veraison which makes for a smooth vintage period.

Following on from what has been described as one of the best vintages the region has recorded, Mr Bowen believes the strength will continue.

“We had a great vintage this year and this cool weather is just what we needed to keep that momentum going,” he said.

“No one likes being out in the cold, but when it is beneficial to our vines then we are going to celebrate it.

“The beauty of a really cold morning is you know once the frost is gone its going to be a perfect day.”

Temperatures also plummeted in districts surrounding Penola and Coonawarra, with Mount Gambier reaching a low of -2.2C and Naracoorte matching Coonawarra’s -3.8C.